& # 39; Once on this island & # 39 ;: Theater Review – tech2.org

& # 39; Once on this island & # 39 ;: Theater Review


The plight of real-world communities affected by natural disasters adds a powerful emotional charge to Michael Arden's immersive rebirth of this captivating 1990s musical fairy tale by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

Walking towards the Broadway Circle in the Plaza and observing the environmental staging of the amorous revival Once on This Island – with a boat turned up at the edge of a puddle of water with sandbags, members of the group working barefoot around a steel drum fire, shoes and clothes hanging to dry all over the theater, doctors who care for the sick, and a live goat who makes its way among the actors: the visual badociation hits you Instantly. The vivid scene is impossible to separate from the latest news from Puerto Rico ravaged by the storm, or further back, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake; the reference would be clear even without the program note of director Michael Arden.

The very real devastation of these and other Caribbean islands provides a moving canvas for this enchanting fairy tale with mythical elements, set in the French Antilles. Adapted from a novel by the author of Trinidad Rosa Guy, with a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and a propulsive score accented by Stephen Flaherty, this 1990 musical is a joyful anthem to the community and the resilience that represents even the tragedy of death as a moving transformation that returns to life.

Along with his ingenious design team and cast of expressive performers and gifted vocal talent, Arden has approached the piece with the nourishing hand it requires: achieving a balance between children's theater and folk ritual with a fantastic dose of dangerous voodoo. It is a show about the healing power of telling stories, which makes it perfect for these dark times. Issues related to clbad divisions, race, pigmentation of skin color and richness also give the material an eternal character.

The musical begins with the universal motif of a child (Mia Williamson, adorable) frightened by a storm, while adults calm her down with a story The stage is an island of deep rivers surrounded by crystal clear waters, known as "Jewel of The Antilles". The dark-skinned peasants work on one side of the earth, while the mestizo money " grands hommes ", a descendant of French settlers, lives in idle luxury on the other, with high gates separating them. The peasants plead with the temperamental gods to protect them from the elements, and in their prayers they are given an enthusiastic form in the initial number: "We dance."

The spiritual rulers of his domain are Erzulie (Lea Salonga), benevolent goddess of love; Agwe (Quentin Earl Darrington), powerful god of water; Asaka (Alex Newell), mother of the earth; and Papa Ge (Merle Dandridge), the rude demon of death. The quality of the handmade production is charming, with Clint Ramos client creating wonderful costumes for the deities with the found materials. Erzulie, dressed in white, wears an impressive headdress of tangled cables that evokes religious iconography; Agwe smears his muscles with green and blue paint; Papa Ge, not traditionally chosen as a woman, has a wild mane of dreadlocks and a harness with the razor blade of a dragon, his fins made of Coca-Cola cans; Asaka is a fabulous transgender diva dressed in a ragged football shirt and a skirt of floral tablecloths that throws epic shadows with a red fan.

In an equally creative vein, the cast also increases the sounds of the five-piece band, providing percussion in "found" instruments – the kind of detritus that is spread by floods and hurricanes.

At the center of the story is "A little girl", saved from a fierce storm whose winds lash the entire audience. She has found a tree by the elderly peasant couple Euralie (Kenita R. Miller) and Julian (Philip Boykin). Leaving aside the feeling that they are too old to raise their children, they call her Ti Moune, or "little orphan". In a beautiful transition, the boy (Williamson) becomes a beautiful teenager (Hailey Kilgore), who breaks the rules by falling in love with a pale-skinned aristocrat, Daniel (Isaac Powell), taking care of him from the edge of death after his car It crashes on a road bathed in rain.

Arden fills the story of miscegenation in Daniel's family with the help of a suspended canvas and a charming shadow theater in a titled interlude, La Triste Histoire des Beauxhommes . The curse on the first brown-haired child born of a French father and an indigenous mother would forever confine all the children to the island, leaving them longing for Europe while despising the peasants for their blackness.

When Daniel recovers transported back to his village, Ti Moune embarks on a challenging journey to meet him. Having bargained her soul to Papa Ge in exchange for saving Daniel's life, she refuses to comply with the island's law of "two different worlds, never destined to meet." Here are echoes of Hans Christian Andersen The Little Mermaid as well as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz with the distinctive songs of each of the gods that help her remember those of the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Darrington gives velvet tones to "Rain", Salonga, in a voice of eternal purity and light, sings "The Human Heart" and Glee alum Newell knocks down the house, singing a wild beast "Mama Will Provider. "

Ti Moune's meeting with Julian is one of initial dismay when he rejects the girl and her native superstitions. Euphoria and loving satisfaction are followed for a short time, but only until the brutal realities of a world divided by rigid traditions are reaffirmed.

Arden and set designer Dane Laffrey, aided by the evocative lighting of Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, evoke a world of elegance by placing a carpet on the sand and suspending a handful of real-flame chandeliers. The atmosphere is magical and romantic, with Ramos sporting bright colors in her opulent dresses for women. It is in this part of the story that the work of the choreographer Camille A. Brown dazzles, when the European waltzes of the Beauxhommes give way to the powerful dance eruption of Ti Moune with roots in Africa, its primary energy spreads like a virus to through servants and aristocracy

In the unsentimental tradition of true fairy tales, this concludes not with a happy ending but with a transcendent and deeply moving illustration of the continuous flow of life and death, and the inextricable role of the narration in that cycle. That spirit is intertwined throughout this production, which demonstrates an impressive leap in maturity and creative vision for the actor-turned-director Arden, last on Broadway with the revival of 2015 Spring Awakening . It also uses the spatial possibilities of the staging of the venue in its entirety, often extending the action to the corridors. While early scenes flirt with a capricious quality that can easily become cloying, the dramatic integrity of the piece prevails.

Flaherty's melodies are firmly rooted in the Broadway musical vernacular, infused with Caribbean rhythms without deviating into cultural appropriation. And Ahrens' lyrics have that mixture of wonder and simplicity that characterizes stories handed down from generation to generation. The composition team would get more success six years later with Ragtime but this show remains one of their most beloved, musically uplifting creations. (They are also currently represented on Broadway with Anastasia .) The orchestrations of AnnMarie Milazzo and Michael Starobin pulsate with vitality, and Flaherty's vocal arrangements are filled with glorious harmonies.

Some of the most dazzling songs come from Miller and Boykin, heartbreaking as the adoptive parents reluctantly forced to let go of their beloved daughter. The newcomer Kilgore is a delight, embodying both strength and vulnerability with a natural exuberance that never feels forced. And as the gods, Darrington, Salonga and Newell all are real in distinctive ways, while Dandridge is devilishly seductive – Death as Victoria's Secret model. But in this magnificently balanced set of 20, each last member plays an essential role in the telling of the story.

Place: Circle in the Square, New York
Cast: Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl Darrington, Alex Newell, Lea Salonga, Hailey Kilgore, Philip Boykin, Darlene Cearcy, Rodrick Covington, Emerson Davis, Alysha Deslorieux , Tyler Hardwick, Cbadondra James, David Jennings, Grasan Kingsberry, Loren Lott, Kenita R. Miller, Isaac Powell, T. Oliver Reid, Aurelia Williams, Mia Williamson
Director: Michael Arden
Book and letter: Lynn Ahrens , based on the novel
My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy
Music: Stephen Flaherty
Escenógrafo: Dane Laffrey
Costume Designer: Clint Ramos
Lighting Designers: Jules Fisher, Peggy Eisenhauer
Sound Designer: Peter Hylenski
Orchestrations: AnnMarie Milazzo, Michael Starobin
Original vocal arrangements: Stephen Flaherty
Music Director r: Alvin Hough Jr.
Musical Supervisor: C hris Fenwick
Choreographer: Camille A. Brown
Presented by Ken Davenport, Hunter Arnold, Carl Daikeler, Roy Putrino, Broadway Strategic Return Fund, Sandi Moran, Caiola Productions, H. Richard Hopper, Diego Kolankowsky, Brian Cromwell Smith, Ron Kastner, Rob Kolson, Judith Manocherian / Kevin Lyle, Jay Alix / One Jackman / Jeff Wise, Witzend Productions / Jeff Grove / Wishnie-Strasberg, Mark Ferris / Michelle Riley / Marie Stevenson, Conor Bagley / Invisible Wall Productions / Silva Theatrical Group, The Harbert Family / Keith Cromwell / Red Mountain Theater Group

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